The cost to Florida taxpayers to defend Gov. Rick Scott is growing.
The Governor’s Office agreed earlier this month to pay $700,000 to in a lawsuit over public records. At issue, a land deal near the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee.
As part of the fight over the land, it was alleged that members of the governor’s staff had set up and use private emails to conduct state business with the intention of keeping their work out of the public eye, a violation of the state’s sunshine laws.
In April, a judge ordered Google to turn over all of the emails; a settlement agreement from the governor quickly followed.
“It’s legal but it’s also maddening,” sais WFTV political analyst Rick Foglesong. “The Governor violates the law and then he adds insult to injury by using the public treasury to pay the fine as if the treasury is his own political piggybank.”
But the lawsuit over the land, filed by Tallahassee attorney Steven Andrews, isn’t the only settlement reached using public money.
Earlier this summer, the governor and members of the Florida Cabinet paid $55,000 to settle a case over open meetings violations stemming from the firing of FDLE Chief Gerald Bailey.
In both cases, not only were settlements reached using tax dollars, but attorney’s fees were also paid using tax dollars.
The governor paid $165,000 and $139,000 for outside council in the two cases; with cabinet members paying another $225,000 according to documents posted online. Because of media attention, Scott’s office has started posting open records requests on its website. Figures for payouts are detailed in a series of requests from media outlets across the state.
“If there is no punishment, if the person responsible doesn’t pay the fine then there is no deterrent, no reason to think the person won’t do the same thing in the future,” says Foglesong.
In a statement to 9 Investigates, Jackie Schutz a spokeswoman for Scott said, “Steven Andrews sued multiple state agencies in multiple suits. He sued the EOG, Office of the Attorney General, DEP and DOS. Florida law has long recognized that public agencies are entitled to have attorney’s fees covered for actions arising from public duties.”